Judge: Ex-Wife Without Standing in ERISA Benefits Case

July 1, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The ex-wife of a pension plan participant can't pursue a lawsuit over whether she is still due benefits, because the participant had already taken a lump-sum distribution of everything due him, a federal judge has ruled.

>US District Judge Rebecca Smith of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that the ex-wife’s legal standing ended when the participant accepted the lump-sum distribution, according to a BNA report.

>According to court background, Natalie Carpenter was married to Dr. Carlos Pinto from 1956 to 1977, when they divorced. As a part of the settlement agreement, Pinto agreed to make Carpenter a beneficiary of $100,000 in benefits under the Carroll Pinto Inc. Employees’ Pension Trust and the Carroll Pinto Inc. Employees’ Profit Sharing Plan by signing an irrevocable designation contract.

>Dr. Pinto retired and received his benefits in a lump sum in 2001. The following year, the plan ceased to exist. In 2004, Carpenter filed a lawsuit for benefits due under the plan and for breach of fiduciary duty. 

>The case is Carpenter v. Carroll Pinto Inc., E.D. Va., No. 2:04CV758, 6/24/05.